Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Our Beautiful, Colorful Circle - Our Adoption Story

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. - Isaiah 42:16

October, 2003:
There were no big revelations from God to tell us we were supposed to adopt after my miscarriages. After all we had been through, Michael and I just knew it was the next step. We felt God nudging us to start the home study paperwork. I have to say at first, I was not excited. I was terrified to open myself up to that kind of hurt again: the hurt of losing a child after hoping for so long. I knew all the stories; tons of adoptions fall through, and never work out. And the financial aspect was more than intimidating. We knew how expensive it was. Adoption is risky, for so many reasons. And there are no guarantees. I am not a person who likes to take risks, and I like to have several backup plans for everything. Lol. Adoption was completely opposite of everything that made me feel in control (not that I ever really was).

One week after our social worker put us on the waiting list to adopt, we got a call from her. First of all, she asked if we were willing to travel to Florida to adopt. We said yes. So we were matched with a seventeen-year-old birth mother due about three months later. We were so excited and also very afraid. Adoption was a world with so many unknowns and so many changes of plans. I tried not to let my heart get too invested so early, but it was hard not to.

About six weeks later, we got a call from the agency in Florida: our birth mom had had the baby six weeks early! The baby weighed four pounds, but was healthy and doing fine. We were told we needed to get down to Florida asap. We immediately began packing our bags and frantically trying to decide what we needed to take for our baby.

About an hour later we got another phone call from the agency: our birth mom's grandfather had talked her into keeping her baby. She had changed her mind.

We were so crushed and I wanted to quit. How much disappointment could we be expected to handle, after eight years of infertility and three miscarriages!?

And yet, I felt God's Presence so strong again, saying softly to me in my spirit, "Hang on, that was not the child I have for you. It will be soon. Soon."

So we waited again. What else was there to do?

On June 13, 2004, we got a call from our agency: An eleven-week-old African American baby boy had just been dropped off at the agency by his birth mother. Were we interested?

I knew that this was the baby God had for us. I was so scared, but I knew it deep down in my soul. We said yes, and soon we were on our way to Florida. It was the strangest trip; driving to pick up our baby son, who we knew basically nothing about. It seems so unreal, like I was watching someone else's life happening.

We checked into the hotel in Florida. I think we both freaked completely out at the same time on our way to grab some dinner. What in the world were we doing? We were adopting a very dark-skinned baby that we know nothing about. We both were panicking and questioning the entire thing. Had we made the right decision? Had we heard God right or had we said yes just out of desperation to have a child?

Before going into the restaurant, we prayed together in the car for God to give us peace, and that He would let us know He was with us. The waitress who took our order asked us what we were doing in Florida, so we told her. She immediately got tears in her eyes and she said, "I am also adopted. My parents are amazing people; I don't know where I would be if they hadn't adopted me. I want you to know that what you are doing is a wonderful thing."

Michael and I looked at each other and smiled. Peace filled our hearts. There was our answer from God. He was with us. Thank you, Father! We both slept like rocks (finally!) at the hotel that night.

Ethan, age 3:
I was having another moment of doubt and discouragement. Ethan had been so hard again that day, like so many others. Michael and I were noticing more and more behaviors in Ethan that were concerning: extreme temper tantrums, mood swings, hyperactivity, social skills issues, sensory problems. What was going on with him? I had noticed these things since he was about eighteen months old (maybe even earlier), but everyone told me, "He's just a boy; he'll grow out of it." I knew better. I lived in denial for awhile, but I knew he wasn't going to grow out of it. The behaviors were getting much worse as he got older.

I was sitting on the couch, praying and journaling for God to give me strength to keep going, and pleading for peace and direction. I was having another one of those moments where I wanted to quit, and was thinking, "Why Lord? Why our child?" Ethan and his little sister Maya (adopted when Ethan was almost two) were playing on the floor nearby.

As I was sitting there praying, Ethan got up from his toys, came over to me and climbed onto my lap.
He looked up into my eyes, touched my cheek with his hand, and said, "Mommy, you saved me." He got back down off my lap and went back to his toys.

The tears fell freely down my cheeks. My heart was pounding; I felt conviction from the Holy Spirit. I heard Him saying, "Ethan is your son. He was meant for your family. Love, as I love you." I felt God’s peace covering me like a warm blanket.


February 2006:
Walking into the hospital room to meet Maya's birth mom was an experience I will never forget. Maya was laying in a bassinet beside her bed. The person from our agency (Robert) was in the room and was talking, but I barely heard what he was saying. I kept looking back and forth between our beautiful daughter and her birth mom. Maya's birth mom was tall and beautiful. She had a red bandana in her hair. She was very quiet, with gentle eyes and a sad smile. I could only imagine how much courage she possessed in that moment. Robert asked if there was anything we wanted to say to her.

What do you say in a moment like that? "Thank you" fell so short. What a humbling experience for her to choose us to parent her beautiful child because she cannot. I told her we would love Maya and take good care of her always. I showed her a picture of Ethan. One of the requests Maya's birth mom had was that whoever adopted her would already have another dark-skinned child in the home. She seemed to enjoy looking at the pictures. It gave us both something to focus on.

After a few minutes, Robert said it was time to go; so we walked out of the room. Michael and I didn't say anything for quite a while after that. What could you say? It left you speechless and totally overwhelmed.

About an hour later, we walked out of the hospital with our precious baby girl. It felt so strange and so wonderful at the same time. I wondered what Maya's birth mom was thinking at that moment. I cannot fathom what was happening in her heart. We prayed for her so much.

March, 2009:
Michael and I were sitting in church together one Sunday. I do not remember the sermon topic, but I know it was not about adoption. I believe it was about God's will. I hesitate to call it a "vision," but I don't really have a better word. Suddenly, in my mind I saw a picture of Michael and I sitting on the floor in a dimly lit room. We were sitting in a circle, and there were many children around us, at least four or five. The children were all different shades of brown and white. We were talking and laughing with them, filled with joy. But I couldn't see any of their faces clearly.

God whispered to my heart, "These are your children, Tammy. Your family is not complete yet. I want you to be open to adoption again." And then the picture was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared.

I felt complete peace in my heart. I held myself together for the rest of the sermon. I didn't know how to tell Michael, but I knew it was time we talked again.

He was very quiet in the car on the way home from church, barely looking at me. I decided to share with him what had just happened. As I was describing what happened, he got a very strange look on his face and his eyes filled with tears. He said, "I also got an overwhelming feeling during the service today too. I sensed very strongly that God was saying He wanted us to adopt again."

Neither of us could speak during the rest of the drive home. Strangely, the kids were very quiet too. I let the tears fall. Thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness to answer our prayers and for Your guidance.

December 24, 2009: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:
Our plane touched down on the runway in Addis Ababa, and I started to freak out a bit. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we doing? Help us, Jesus! This being our third adoption, I was beginning to realize that it's very normal to freak out in those moments. I prayed for more courage. Courage is when you are afraid, but you go ahead anyway, right?

The entire ten days in Ethiopia was amazing. God was so faithful to us. We met Geremew for the first time on Christmas Day. It was the best Christmas gift I've ever received. He was so handsome in his Ethiopian clothes. We had a Christmas party at the Holt orphanage. He let me hold him and feed him some cake. He didn't smile a lot at first, and he looked so sad (and I'm sure confused), but I didn't expect anything else. I can't even imagine what his little mind and heart were going through. But by the end of the ten days, he was smiling and laughing with us. The language barrier was an issue, but we got through it. His favorite word was "makina," which means "car" in Amharic. We have given him a little blue matchbox truck that he took everywhere. It was a sweet little connection point between him and us. He would look at us and smile and hold up his truck: “makina.”

We got to meet Geremew's birth mom one of the days in her village, six hours away from Addis Ababa. That was quite an experience. We had an interpreter with us to talk to her. I could see how much she loved Geremew when she saw a recent picture of him that we had taken. She cried, hugged us, and asked us to take good care of him for her. She gave us a gift, she said to remind us to always love Geremew. There are no words to describe that moment. It left us speechless, humbled, and overwhelmed.

We arrived home with Geremew right before the new year. His first American meal at the airport was a cheeseburger and fries, which he loved.

Ethan and Maya adored Geremew from the beginning, and he loved them equally as much. Geremew's second name soon became "Gery" (by his suggestion).

We didn't feel our family was complete yet. We got our foster care license in in the summer of 2010. We wanted to look into the Foster-To-Adopt program.

We interviewed, along with a few other couples, with DCS (Department of Child Services) about adopting two very small children, a sibling group. But we were not chosen. I felt disappointed, but I knew God was in control (finally, I was getting that!)

We set up two additional interviews about more sibling groups to potentially adopt. I then found out I was pregnant, which was the biggest surprise of my life. I didn't know how it was going to turn out, but we obviously cancelled our interviews to see what was going to happen. Would I just have another miscarriage? Father, have mercy.

And so....after sixteen years of marriage, I had my first successful pregnancy. Kendyl Joy Gerber was born on September 1, 2011. She was healthy and beautiful. Another complete miracle.

April, 2012.

Another positive pregnancy test! Unbelievable, really. Cole Michael was born on December 19th, 2012.

The minute Cole was born, I felt our family was complete. I had total peace about it. So did Michael (not to mention the fact that we would go crazy if we had any more kids!).

I thought about my "vision" at church. Our five wonderful, beautiful brown and white children, all different shades of color! The Lord had fulfilled the picture I had in my mind of us sitting in a circle with many children. Father, you are a good, good Dad. I loved them all so much. And each one came to our family in such a unique, special way…placed in our home by God.

They truly are the biggest miracles of all.

I let the tears fall. God, YOU are beyond words. You deserve all the glory and all the honor.

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord. - Psalm 113:9.

My dear friend and mentor, Suze Fair, wrote some words about adoption (and about the courageous birth mothers) that I think are amazing, and a picture of what my heart feels. Thank you, Suze, for letting me use these words when I was struggling to find them…

“If someone would have told me 25 years ago that adopting Ben would be one of the most beautifully, horrible, life-transforming journeys I would go on -- I don't think I would have believed them.
My longing to become a Mom was so deeply profound that, home-study & required counseling aside, this was all I was thinking about. I didn't realize that every year on his birthday, my heart would break a little more for her. This woman who had, in an act of bravery I still can't really comprehend, chosen me to stand in her spot with this little guy -- for the rest of his life. I naively thought because my life was getting better, so was hers. As we've found out recently, that just wasn't the case. It wasn't until I started mothering Ben, and then his sisters, that I realized what exactly she had done. What kind of person has that inside her? To create and carry this life and then hand him over so that this life can flourish in a way she's not able to provide. She is my hero. Truly.

Over the years, I've likened adoption a little to a person who's heart is failing and a transplant is the only option. In desperation, his whole family starts praying for a donor -- not really thinking what this actually requires. Whether you receive someone else's heart or someone else's child -- you are connected to him...or her. Forever.

Adoption has been the source of the greatest joy of my life and it has also been the root of my most profound sorrow. Maybe that's just true about parenting in general. But for me, there hasn’t been a moment in all these years, when I haven’t thought of adoption as the biggest, broadest, most generous invitation to know more of God and His unconditional adoption of me as His beloved daughter.” - Suze Fair

I love November because it’s National Adoption Month, a month to honor adoption and those touched by adoption. And to praise God for the gift of adoption, and to know it’s near and dear to His heart. If you know someone who’s been impacted by adoption, give them a hug today. This journey can be so hard, and yet so beautiful. Beautifullyhard (is that a word?). I thank God today for His provision for the orphan (just as he offered that gift to me, joining his family through salvation in Jesus Christ). Praise the Lord. And I’ll say it again...praise the Lord.

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If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.

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